From 1808 the British Museum in London began regularly to open its newly established Townley Gallery so that art students could draw from the ancient sculptures housed there. This article documents and comments on this development in art education, based on an analysis of the 165 individuals recorded in the surviving register of attendance at the Museum, covering the period 1809–17. The register is presented as a photographic record, with a transcription and biographical directory. The accompanying essay situates the opening of the Museum’s sculpture rooms to students within a far-reaching set of historical shifts. It argues that this new museum access contributed to the early nineteenth-century emergence of a liberal state. But if the rhetoric surrounding this development emphasized freedom and general public benefit in the spirit of liberalization, the evidence suggests that this new level of access actually served to further entrench the “middle-classification” of art education at this historical juncture.


From the summer of 1808 the British Museum in London began regularly to open its newly established galleries of Graeco-Roman sculpture for art students. The collection, made up almost entirely of pieces previously owned by Charles Townley, had been purchased for the nation in 1805 and installed in a new extension to the Museum’s first home, Montagu House, which was built earlier in 1808. After some protracted discussion with the Royal Academy, detailed below, the collection was made available for its students in time for the royal opening of the Townley Gallery on 3 June 1808. From January 1809, a written record was kept of students admitted to draw from the antique. This volume survives in the library of the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum and identifies one hundred and sixty-five separate individuals admitted through to 1817.1


The register forms the focus of this essay and is presented here as a facsimile and transcription, with an accompanying directory of student biographies (see supplementary materials below). This may be taken as a straightforward contribution to the literature on early nineteenth-century art education, and the author hopes it may be useful as such. However, it also situates the opening of the Museum’s sculpture rooms to students within a rather more far-reaching set of historical shifts. Namely, it argues that this new form of museum access was part of the early nineteenth-century emergence of a liberal state that “actively governs through freedom (free ‘individuals’, markets, societies, and so on, which are only ‘free’ because the state makes them so)”.2 Access to the British Museum was “free” in that there were no charges or fees. Meanwhile, the arrangement offered a degree of freedom to the students themselves; they were expected to be largely self-selecting and self-regulating. When the arrangement was exposed to public scrutiny, as a result of questions asked in parliament in 1821, the freedom of access and the service this did to the public good were emphasized. But, once closely scrutinized, the evidence suggests that this manifestation of the freedoms encouraged by the liberal state had a social disciplinary role (even if disciplinary function can hardly be recognized as such), in serving to further entrench the “middle-classification” of art at this historical juncture.3


The conjunction of art education and a grandiose notion such as the liberal state may be unexpected, and rests on three key assertions. The first is that art worlds are structured and in their structure have a homological relationship with the larger social environment.4 The initial part of this statement (that art worlds are structured) may not be especially hard to swallow, given the relatively formalized and hierarchical nature of the London art world during the early nineteenth century, when cultural authority was vested in a small number of institutions, and the practices associated with academic tradition in principle still held sway. However, that the structure of the art world, in its hierarchical dimension, may also be homologically related to the larger field of power, so that social relationships are reproduced within this relatively autonomous sphere, is more clearly contentious, and runs contrary to commonplace beliefs and expectations about talent and luck in determining personal fate in the modern age—artists’ fortunes most especially. In fact, in the period under review here, the artist became an exemplary figure in the new narratives of social mobility: the art world came to serve as a model of how talent or sheer good fortune could override social origins and destinies.5


The second assertion is that the Royal Academy and British Museum were developing new forms of state institution, underpinned by the conjoined principles of freedom of access and public benefit. Such has been argued importantly by Holger Hoock, and while I depart from his arguments in some key regards, his insights into the status of these institutions and the role of forms of public–private partnership in their formation are crucial.6 The third assertion (and this marks a departure from Hoock), is that the state is not a stable, centralized entity, or site of power either “up above” or “below” historical actors. Instead, it is taken to be the sum of actions and dispositions ostensibly volunteered by these historical agents in all their multitude and variety. The crucial point of reference here is the sustained body of work on the liberal state by the historian Patrick Joyce, deploying the work of Bruno Latour and Michel Foucault, among others, to yield a more materialistic and decentralized understanding of the emergence and role of state bodies.7 The state, in this view, is composed of technologies, disciplinary structures, habits of mind, and ways of doing things. The mechanics of art education, insofar as this involves the movement through or exclusion of individuals from identified places, the arrangement of their bodies in relation to one another and to their model, the management of their behaviour within those places, the very motion of their bodies, hands, and eyes under the surveillance of their peers, teachers or other authorities, may be considered as a form of biopolitics; the student who entered his or her name into the British Museum’s register of admission was producing his or her governmentality.8


The argument here is emphatically historical and states that this arrangement, while it may have precedents and may have been seminal, belongs to an historical moment—the emergence of the liberal state. My case, which can be sketched out only in outline in this context, is that the emergence of the familiar institutional arrangements of the modern art world between the 1770s and the 1830s (in the form of actual institutions and regulatory structures or permissions, including annual exhibitions, centralized art schools supported by the state directly and indirectly, emphasis on quantifiable measures of access and engagement as the test of public value, and so forth) represents in an exemplary way the illusory freedoms promoted by liberalism, and renewed by present-day “neo-liberalism”, as addressed by commentators from the prophetic Karl Polanyi through to the later work of Foucault and Bourdieu on the state, and Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, among others.9 The early nineteenth-century art world can be proposed as a privileged focus of attention because it was still of a scale which can allow for the kinds of data-based analysis which must underpin any sort of sociological exploration, and because its individual membership can be documented in fine detail in a manner which is simply not possible at an earlier historical date. Paradoxically, despite its announced commitment to non-intervention and personal freedom, the emerging liberal state generated huge amounts of documentation about society and its individual members—tax records, parochial and civil records, the national census from 1801—which digitilization has made more readily available than ever before, allowing this generation of artists to be documented as never previously.10


The production of artistic identities through these records is not unrelated to changes in artistic identity itself over the same timeframe. One way of realizing this might be to consider the period outlined above—c. 1770–1830s—not as a period from the foundation of the Royal Academy (1769) to its removal to Trafalgar Square, or even as the era of Romanticism, as much literary and cultural history-writing would dictate, but as the era from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) to the Reform Act (1832) and the Speenhamland system, a last experiment in patrician social care before the Poor Law Amendment Act (1834), taking in Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo. The challenge is thinking of these two frameworks not in sequential or spatially differentiated ways, but as simultaneous and identical. Within this emerging liberal state the figure of the artist is attributed with a special degree and form of freedom, what has conventionally been alluded to, in generally sociologically imprecise ways, as a feature of “Romanticism”, slumping into “bohemianism” and a generic idea of art student lifestyle. If this was a moment of unprecedented state investment in the arts (from the Royal Academy through to the Schools of Design) and government scrutiny (notably with the Select Committees), it simultaneously saw the emergence of artistic identities expressing the values of personal freedom, freedom from regulation, and even active opposition to the state.


I propose that art education, as it took shape in the emerging liberal state, might be explored as a “liberogenic” phenomenon: among those “devices intended to produce freedom which potentially risk producing exactly the opposite.”11 As such, it may have renewed pertinence for our own time, although this does not entail seeing a “causal” relationship between the past and present, or a linear genetic relationship between then and now. In fact, the purpose of this commentary, and the larger project it arises from,12 is rather to trouble our relationship with that past. The intention is not, however, to point unequivocally to the era under consideration as here entailing “the making of a modern art world”, with the rise of art education and museums access representing a stage towards democratization, as illuminated in stellar fashion by the great Romantic artists (J. M. W. Turner—famously the son of a lowly London barber—pre-eminently). I would want instead to take seriously Jacques Rancière’s call for “a past that puts a radical requirement at the centre of the present”, eschewing causality and “nostalgia” in favour of “challenging the relationship of the present to that past”.13 If giving attention to the “freedom” of art education at the advent of the liberal state provides any insight at all, it should do so by troubling rather than affirming our narratives of the genesis of a modern art world.


Access to the Townley Gallery


The arrival at the Museum of the Townley marbles, together with the development of the prints and drawings collection and its installation in new, secure rooms in the same wing, fundamentally changed the character of the institution. As Neil Chambers has noted, having been primarily a repository of (often celebrated) curiosities of many different forms, quite suddenly “The Museum was now a centre for art and the study of sculpture.”14 The shift was acknowledged internally at the Museum by the creation in 1807 of a distinct Department of Antiquities, which also had responsibility for the collection of prints and drawings. But while the significance of the opening of the Townley Gallery in the history of the British Museum is clear, the opening of the collection to students has barely been noticed in the art-historical literature. The register has been overlooked almost entirely, and the relevance of this development in student access may not even be immediately obvious.15

<i>Westminster</i>, 1794, watercolour, 39 × 54 cm. Collection of the British Museum.

Figure 1.
William Chambers, The Sculpture Collection of Charles Townley in the dining room of his house in Park Street, Westminster, 1794, watercolour, 39 × 54 cm. Collection of the British Museum.

Digital image courtesy of Trustees of the British Museum


1791–1805, drawing, 48 × 35 cm. Collection of the British Museum. DOI Townley’s collection had already famously been on display for many years at his private house in Park Street, London. William Chambers’ (or Chalmers’) drawing of the Park Street display from 1794 includes a well-dressed young woman drawing under the supervision or advice of a man, promoting the idea that the collection was available for sufficiently genteel students of the art more generally (fig. 1). In his recollections of the London art world, J. T. Smith described “those rooms of Mr Townley’s house, in which that gentleman’s liberality employed me when a boy, with many other students in the Royal Academy, to make drawings for his portfolios”.16 Smith’s former employer, the sculptor Joseph Nollekens, has been identified among the more established artists who were also engaged by Townley to draw from marbles in the collection (fig. 2). As Viccy Coltman has noted, “The townhouse at 7 Park Street, Westminster became an unofficial counterpoint to the English arts establishment that was the Royal Academy: as an academy of ancient sculpture, much as Sir John Soane’s London house-museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields would become an academy of architecture in the early 19th century.”17 Evidently, a number of the students and artists admitted to draw from the Townley marbles once they were at the British Museum knew them formerly at first hand from visiting 7 Park Street; for instance, William Skelton, admitted to draw at the Museum in 1809, had apparently already studied and engraved three busts from the collection for inclusion in the design of Townley’s visiting card (fig. 3).


Townley had hoped for a separate gallery to be erected to house the collection, but his executors, his brother Edward Townley Standish and uncle John Townley were unable to agree a plan.18 The sale of the collection to the Museum was a compromise. With the erection of a new gallery space for the collection underway, the Museum considered how special access might be given to artists. That the question was posed at all should be an indication of how far the realm of cultural consumption and production was being folded in to the emerging liberal state at this juncture. At a meeting of the Trustees on 28 February 1807, a committee was set up to consider how the prints and drawings collections might be used by artists, and to draw up “Regulations . . . for the Admission of Strangers to view the Gallery of Antiquities either separately from, or together with the rest of the Museum: And also for the Admission of Artists”.19

1778–1848, etching, 65 × 96 cm. Collection of the British Museum.

Figure 3.
William Skelton, Charles Townley's visiting card, 1778–1848, etching, 65 × 96 cm. Collection of the British Museum.

Digital image courtesy of Trustees of the British Museum


With the Gallery still under construction, the Sub-Committee was not obliged to move quickly, and it proved to be a protracted and unexpectedly fractious affair.20 It was not until the Museum’s general meeting of 13 February 1808, that the principal librarian, Joseph Planta, reported “his opinion of the best time & mode of admission of Strangers as well as artists, to the Gallery of Antiquities”, with the request that Benjamin West, President of the Royal Academy, be asked to attend a further meeting.21 After delays, he did so on 10 March, after which the Council drew up a set of regulations.22 These went back to the Academy with additions and changes, which were accepted by the Council who wrote to the British Museum on the 10 May to that effect, noting that a General Meeting of the Academy was to take place, “to prepare the final arrangement for his Majesty’s approbation”.23


Accordingly, at the British Museum, the Sub-Committee’s reports and proposals were approved by the Standing Committee, with “Resolutions founded on the above mentioned Reports” read at the General Meeting of 14 May.24 The resolutions, numbered so as to be inserted in the existing regulations regarding admissions, were confirmed in the meeting of 21 May, over three months after what should have been a straightforward matter was raised (see Appendix, below).25 Clause number eight, concerning the payment of Academicians charged with the supervision of students, evidently caused some consternation within the Academy, as recorded in the diary of Joseph Farington.26 The relative authority of the Council and General Assembly had been a contentious matter in previous years, and the lengthy dispute over arrangements with the Museum reflected lingering tensions.


On 12 July 1808 the proposals were read, and “After a long conversation it was Resolved to adjourn.”27 The subject was taken up on re-convening on 21 July, but without resolution.28 At yet another meeting, on 26 July 1808, the point about the Academy’s provision of superintendents to monitor the students while at the British Museum was referred back to Council.29 We have to turn to Farington’s diary for a fuller account. He noted that the Academy’s General Assembly had met on 12 July “for the purpose of receiving a Law made by the Council ‘That permission having been granted by the Trustees of the British Museum for Students to study from the Antiques &c at the Museum, certain days are fixed upon for that purpose, & that an Academician shall attend each day at the Museum & to be paid 2 guineas for each day’s attendance’ . . . Much discussion took place.”30 At a further meeting: “The Correspondence of the Council with the Sub Committee of the British Museum was read from the beginning” and “much discussion” was had about the supervision of the students, Farington making the point that:

as the studies of the British Museum shd. be considered those of completion and not to learn the Elements of art the Academy shd. not recommend any student whose abilities & conduct wd. not warrant it, that it should be considered the last stage of study, when those admitted wd. not require constant inspection; therefore daily attendance of a Member of the Academy wd. not be necessary.31

The point of contest may have concerned the right of the Council to organize things independent of the General Assembly of the Academicians, and a more general question about economy (“Northcote proposed that the Academician who in rotation shall attend at the British Museum, shd. have 3 guineas a day. West thought one guinea sufficient”).32 But Farington’s point is more revealing in indicating the expectation that the selected students of the Academy were to be largely self-regulating, and self-disciplining; they were to be granted freedom because they had already internalized the discipline required by these institutions.


1809–17. Collection of the British Museum. DOI The matter finally settled, students were admitted to the Townley Gallery from at least the beginning of 1809: the first entries in the register book are dated 14 January 1809 (figs. 4 and 5 to 11). On that date four students were enrolled, although only one of them was at the Royal Academy. That was Henry Monro, the son of Dr Thomas Monro, Physician at Bedlam and an amateur and collector who ran the influential “academy” at his home in Adelphi Terrace. The other students included two of the daughters of Thomas Paytherus, a successful London apothecary, and a Ralph Irvine of Great Howland Street, who seems quite certainly to have been Hugh Irvine, the Scottish landscape painter and a member of the landowning Irvine family of Drum, who gave that address in the exhibition catalogue of the British Institution’s show in 1809. Another five students registered in February and July. This included another recently registered Royal Academy student, Henry Sass, whose name was entered into the Academy’s books in 1805, recommended for study at the British Museum by the architect and RA John Soane, and the artists William Skelton, Adam Buck, Samuel Drummond, and Maria Singleton. The mix of amateur and professional artists, young and old, and indeed the mix of male and female students (discussed below), continued throughout the register.

  • DOI

    Figure 5.

    Page 1, Register of Students Admitted to the Gallery of Antiques, 1809–17. Collection of the British Museum.

    Digital image courtesy of British Museum

  • DOI

    Figure 6.

    Page 2, Register of Students Admitted to the Gallery of Antiquities, 1809–17. Collection of the British Museum.

    Digital image courtesy of Trustees of the British Museum

  • DOI

    Figure 7.

    Page 3, Register of Students Admitted to the Gallery of Antiquities, 1809–17. Collection of the British Museum.

    Digital image courtesy of Trustees of the British Museum

  • DOI

    Figure 8.

    Page 4, Register of Students Admitted to the Gallery of Antiquities, 1809–17. Collection of the British Museum.

    Digital image courtesy of Trustees of the British Museum

  • DOI

    Figure 9.

    Page 5, Register of Students Admitted to the Gallery of Antiquities, 1809–17. Collection of the British Museum.

    Digital image courtesy of Trustees of the British Museum

  • DOI

    Figure 10.

    Page 6, Register of Students Admitted to the Gallery of Antiques, 1809–17. Collection of the British Museum.

    Digital image courtesy of Trustees of the British Museum

  • DOI

    Figure 11.

    Page 7, Register of Students Admitted to the Gallery of Antiques, 1809–17. Collection of the British Museum.

    Digital image courtesy of Trustees of the British Museum


Eight of the twelve students registered on 11 November were current Academy students; this proportion of Academy students to others continues throughout the record. But on the same day Planta noted to the standing committee

that the Royal Academicians not having availed themselves of the Regulations in favour of their Pupils, & many applications having been made to him for leave to draw in the Gallery of Antiquities, he therefore submitted to the consideration of the Trustees, whether persons duly recommended might not be admitted in the same manner as in the Reading Room.33

The matter was referred on to the general meeting.34 On 9 December 1809 the new regulations were confirmed:

Students who apply for Admission to the Gallery are to specify their descriptions & places of abode; and every one who applies, if not known to any Trustee or Officer, will produce a recommendation from some person of known & approved Character, particularly, if possible, from one of the Professors in the Royal Academy.35

On 10 February 1810 it was instructed “That the Regulation respecting the mode of Admission of Students to the Gallery of Sculpture, as made at the last General Meeting be printed & hung up in the Hall, & at the entrance into the Gallery”.36 The students admitted through 1810 were predominantly students at the Royal Academy, but also included the emigré natural history painter the Chevalier de Barde and Charles Muss, already established as an enamel and glass painter. The same pattern was apparent in subsequent years. Twenty-five students were registered in 1811 and again in 1812, before numbers dropped to twelve in 1813, eight in 1814, picking up with nineteen in 1815, and dropping to nine in 1816. The Museum’s original stipulation that no more than twenty Academy students be admitted each year did not, it appears, create any undue constraints on the flow of admissions. Far from having a monopoly over student admissions, as the Museum’s original regulations had anticipated, the Royal Academy had apparently been distinctly laissez-faire, doing little to try to push students forward to make up the numbers.


The galleries the students gained access to comprised a sequence of rooms within the new wing added to accommodate the growing collection of sculptural antiquities, notably the Egyptian material taken from the French at Alexandria in 1801. The Egyptian antiquities dominated the galleries in terms of sheer size, although the visual centrepiece, whether viewed from the Egyptian hall or through the extended enfilade of rooms II–V where the Townley marbles were displayed, was the Discobolus (fig. 12).37 The intimate scale of the galleries brought benefits, as German architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel noted on his visit of 1826: “Gallery of antiquities in very small rooms, lit from above, very restful and satisfying”.38 But is also imposed a practical limit on the numbers of students who could attend. This changed when, in 1817, the Elgin marbles were put on display at Montagu House in spacious, if warehouse-like, temporary rooms newly annexed to the Townley Gallery (fig. 13). The spike of interest recorded in the register, with thirty-seven students listed under the heading “1817”, must reflect this new opportunity. The register terminates at this point, although the volume continued to be used to record students and artists admitted to the prints and drawings room (upstairs from the Townley Gallery) from 1815 through to the 1840s.39

  • 1820, watercolour, 36.1 × 44.3 cm. Collection of the British Museum.

    Figure 12.

    Anonymous, View through the Egyptian Room, in the Townley Gallery at the British Museum, 1820, watercolour, 36.1 × 44.3 cm. Collection of the British Museum.

    Digital image courtesy of Trustees of the British Museum

  • 1817, watercolour, 38.8 × 48.1 cm. Collection of the British Museum.

    Figure 13.

    William Henry Prior, View in the old Elgin room at the British Museum, 1817, watercolour, 38.8 × 48.1 cm. Collection of the British Museum.

    Digital image courtesy of Trustees of the British Museum


Some form of register must have been maintained, but appears not to have survived, and evidence of student attendance after 1817 is largely a matter of anecdotal record.40 These later records also, incidentally, point to the variety of student practice in the galleries. While the Museum’s original stipulations made the presumption that admitted artists would be drawing (“each student shall provide himself with a Portfolio in which his Name is written, and with Paper as well as Chalk”), students evidently worked in different media as well. James Ward referred explicitly to “modelling” in the Museum in his diary entries of 1817; and George Scharf’s watercolour of the interior of the Townley Gallery from 1827 (fig. 14) shows a student sitting on boxes at work at an easel, with what appears to be a paintbrush in his right hand and a palette in his left.41 Nonetheless, the Townley marbles had lost much of their allure. Jack Tupper, a rather unsuccessful artist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, recalled his growing disillusion when studying at the British Museum in the late 1830s: “So the glory of the Townley Gallery faded: the grandeur of ‘Rome’ passed.”42

1827, watercolour, 30.6 × 22 cm. Collection of the British Museum.

Figure 14.
George Scharf, View of the Townley Gallery, 1827, watercolour, 30.6 × 22 cm. Collection of the British Museum.

Digital image courtesy of Trustees of the British Museum


The material record of student activity in the Townley Gallery, in the form of images which seem definitely to derive from this special access to the Museum, is extremely scarce.43 Whatever was produced in the Gallery was, after all, generally only for the purposes of study, and was unlikely to be retained or valued after the artist’s death. John Wood, a dedicated student at the Royal Academy from 1819, noted: “I am surprised at the comparatively few drawings I made in the Antique School at the Royal Academy, including my probationary one, not exceeding five, with an outline from the group of the Laocoon.—In the British Museum I made a chalk drawing from the statue of Libēra for Mr Sass”, that is, the Townley Venus, apparently drawn by Wood as an exercise for the well-known drawing teacher Henry Sass.44 Student drawings after the antique must have been numerous, but that does not mean they were preserved. J. M. W. Turner had apparently attended the Plaster Academy over one hundred and thirty times up to the point he became an ARA, in 1799.45 Yet even with a figure of his stature, whose studio contents were so completely preserved, and whose dedication to academic study was so notable, we have only a handful of drawings which appear certainly to derive from his time at the schools.46 There are, doubtless, traces of study in the Museum to be uncovered in finished works of the period. Charles Lock Eastlake’s youthful figure of Brutus in his ambitious early work is evidently a direct lift from the marble of Actaeon attacked by his own hounds in the Townley collection; he had been admitted to draw from the antique in 1810 (figs. 15 and 16). But given the dissemination of classical prototypes (in graphic form as well as in plaster) it would be hard to insist that it was only access to the British Museum’s antiquities which made such allusion strictly possible.


The Register of Students as Social Record


Of arguably greater interest than the question of the “influence” of access to the marbles on artistic practice is the evidence the register provides about the social profile of the students. This takes us to the heart of the question about the relationship between art education and the state. This was, in fact, a question raised at the time. The British Museum was in 1821 obliged to draw up a report on student and public attendance of the Museum, prompted by Thomas Barrett Lennard MP, who had entered a motion in the House of Commons seeking reassurance that this publicly funded institution was not “merely an establishment for the gratification of private favour or individual patronage”.47 Lennard’s questions arose from a growing body of criticism directed against the Museum, which turned on the question of whether, as a publicly funded body, everyone could expect free access, or only a more specialist minority. As one critic jibed in 1822, “If the British Museum is open only to the friends of the librarians, & their friends’ friends, it ceases to be a public institution.”48


The report elicited by Lennard’s question provided a detailed breakdown of admissions. With regard to providing access to draw from the antique, the Museum indulged the impression that it not only fulfilled but exceeded its commitment to admitting Royal Academy students: providing the figures for the period 1809–17 (based, surely, on the register under consideration here), the Museum’s report elaborated:

The Statute for the admission of Students in the Gallery of Sculptures being among those required by the Order of the House of Commons, it may not be irrelevant to add, that the number of students who were admitted to make drawings in the Townley Gallery, from the year 1809 to the year 1817, amounted to an average of something more than twenty.49

Notably, this summary gives the clear impression that the antiques were being opened to the students of the Royal Academy; such is, quite reasonably, presumed by Derek Cash in his recent, careful commentary on admission procedures at the Museum.50 The report also pointed to recent changes:

In 1818, immediately subsequent to the opening of the Elgin Room, two hundred and twenty-three students were admitted: in 1819, sixty-nine more were admitted, and in 1820, sixty-three.

It asserted that, now:

Every student sent by the keeper of the Royal Academy, upon the production of his academy ticket, is admitted without further reference to make his drawings: and other persons are occasionally admitted, on simply exhibiting the proofs of their qualification.

According to the present practice, each student has leave to exhibit his finished drawing, from any article in the Gallery, for one week after its completion.51

Thus stated, the Museum appeared to be fulfilling its public duty in providing free access to appropriately qualified students. The bare figures might seem to indicate a steady rise in student interest, which could be taken as a marker of quantitative success. In one of the earliest historical accounts of the Museum, Edward Edwards implied that the statistical record was evidence of how Planta had progressively extended access to the Museum: “From the outset he administered the Reading Room itself with much liberality . . . As respects the Department of Antiquities, the students admitted to draw were in 1809 less than twenty; in 1818 two hundred and twenty-three were admitted.”52 At that level of abstraction the information appears beyond dispute. What I test in the remainder of this essay is how these statements stand up to the more individualized account of student activity represented in the biographical record.


That record does include the most assiduous students of the Royal Academy of the time, who certainly did not need the kind of “constant inspection” Farington worried about, the kind of student anticipated by the Museum’s regulations. Among these we could count Henry Monro, Samuel F. B. Morse and Charles Robert Leslie, William Brockedon, Henry Perronet Briggs, William Etty and Henry Sass, the last two famously dedicated as students of the Academy.53 However, the full biographical survey of the register points to a more complicated situation. Of the one hundred and sixty-five individuals named in the register, it has proved possible to establish biographical profiles for the majority: details are most lacking for about twenty-four of the attending students, although in most of those cases we can conjecture at least some biographical context.54 Slightly less than half the total number of individuals listed were recorded as students at the Academy at a date which makes it reasonably likely that they were actively attending the schools when they were admitted to the British Museum (eighty in all).55 Around twenty more established male artists attended, and several of these were formerly students at the Royal Academy, including John Samuel Agar, John Flaxman, and James Ward. Whether they were pursuing their private studies or undertaking more specific professional tasks is not always clear. There are, certainly, a few cases where the latter appears to be the case. When William Henry Hunt was admitted it was explicitly for the purpose of preparing drawings for a publication; both William Skelton and John Samuel Agar were probably admitted in connection with his ongoing work engraving from sculptures at the Museum. It seems likely that the “Students to Mr Meyer”, that is, the engraver and print publisher Henry Meyer, were engaged on professional business, as was Thomas Welsh, recommended by the publisher Thomas Woodfall.


More striking, though, is the determined presence in the register of artists who did not pursue the art professionally or full-time, including the relatively well-documented Chevalier de Barde, Arthur Champernowne, John Disney, Hugh Irvine (assuming he is the “Ralph Irvine” who appears in the register), Robert Batty, Edward John Burrow, Edward Vernon Utterson, and a number of others designated as “Esq”, so clearly from the polite classes, even if their exact identities remain unclear. There are at least fifteen male individuals who appear to come from backgrounds sufficiently socially elevated or affluent enough to suggest they were taking an amateur interest rather than pursuing serious studies.56 Enough of these men are known to have practised art to make it quite certain that they were not, at least generally, being admitted to consult the collection without intending to draw, and John Disney was admitted explicitly “to make a sketch of a Mausoleum”. Notable, in this regard, are the large number of women admitted to study, most of whom are or appear to be from polite backgrounds, including the Paytherus sisters, Elizabeth Appleton, Louisa Champernowne, Miss Carmichael, Elizabeth Batty, Miss Home, Lucy Adams, Jane Gurney, Maria Singleton, and Anne Seymour Damer.57 Some were established artists, or became so; others were pursuing art as a polite accomplishment, or at least we can assume so given their family circumstances; in other cases the situation is by no means clear-cut. All were admitted without special comment or notice despite the issues of propriety around the drawing of even the sculptured nude figure by female artists which crops up in contemporary commentaries.58 This may be all the more striking given the relative paucity of women admitted as readers at the British Museum library over the same period: only three out of the three hundred and thirty-three admitted between 1770 and 1810, as surveyed by Derek Cash.59 On this evidence, the field of artistic study was, in the most literal terms, relatively female compared even to the study of literature or history. This points to an under-explored context for the inculcation of the students into life as an artist: the “feminine” sphere of the home, and of siblings (whether brothers or sisters) alongside parents. We have, surely, barely begun to consider the family as the context in which artists are made as much as, if not more than, the studio and academy.


Nor is it straightforward to assume that those individuals who had enrolled as Academy students also had expectations about the professional pursuit of the art. Among the Academy students who attended, a large proportion, including a majority of the most assiduous, were from polite social backgrounds, with fathers in the professions, or who were office-holders or from the landowning classes, including Henry Monro, John Penwarne, Richard Cook, William Drury Shaw, Charles Lock Eastlake, Henry Perronet Briggs, Alexander Huey, Thomas Cooley, Samuel F. B. Morse, Andrew Geddes, John Zephaniah Bell, Thomas Christmas, John Owen Tudor, and Samuel Hancock. Others were the sons of elite tradesmen, highly specialized craftsmen or merchants, including William Brockedon, Seymour Kirkup, Charles Robert Leslie, Gideon Manton, and John Zephaniah Bell. These were not, either, predestined to be artists, by simply following in their father’s footsteps, but were opting in to an artistic career, having had, usually, a decent education, and access to material and social support. In many cases their brothers, who shared the same upbringing, became doctors or lawyers, property-owners or merchants. A number of individual students gave up the practice of the art—Thomas Christmas became a landowner in Willisden; Richard Cook was able to retire, wealthy; Seymour Kirkup languished in Rome dabbling in the arts; William Brockedon became more engaged as an inventor and traveller; while others were never really obliged to draw an income from their practice but pursued art as a pastime.


It remains the case that there was a high level of occupational inheritance; perhaps thirty-eight of the students (23 percent) had fathers who were architects, engravers or artists in painting or sculpture. Many were the sons of established artists (including Rossi, Bone, Stothard, Ward, Dawe, Wyatt, Bonomi, and the brothers Stephanoff); a few were part of “dynasties” encompassing generations engaged in the arts (Wyatt, Wyon, Hakewill, Landseer). Even then, there is the case of John Morton (noted confusingly as “John Martin” in the register, although the address given provides for a firm identification), who, although the son of an artist and a student at the Royal Academy, exhibited personally as an “Honorary”, suggesting he was not professionally engaged. That his brother became quite prominent as a physician suggests that this was a quite emphatically middle-class family setting.


There are several points to derive from this information, even as lightly sketched as it necessarily is here. Firstly, it is noteworthy that while female students were a minority they were a definite presence; in this regard, the British Museum was like other spaces of artistic study, notably the painting school at the British Institution.60 The observation is upheld by the contemporary records of student attendance at the British Institution or of copyists at Dulwich Picture Gallery, and should serve as a reminder that the Royal Academy was exceptional among the spaces of art education in being so entirely male.61 Secondly, it is striking how few came from humble backgrounds unconnected with the art world; really, only a handful, which would include John Tannock (son of a shoemaker in Scotland), William Etty (son of a baker in York), John Jackson (son of a village tailor in Yorkshire), and William Henry Hunt (whose father was a London tin-plate worker). The circumstances which led to their gaining access to the London art world are, therefore, noteworthy, as a third and most important point would be to emphasize how emphatically metropolitan, polite, and middle-class was the British Museum as a site of artistic education. The Townley Gallery on student days was a place where working artists, students, amateurs, and patrons mingled.62 While the Royal Academy is conventionally seen as an engine of professionalization, it is striking that the social affiliations of artists point to strong, arguably increasingly strong, affiliations between amateurs and professionals—to the extent that our terminology around this point needs to be reconsidered. Looking over the biographical survey, the kind of social suffering or precariousness typically associated with artists’ lives, perhaps especially during the era of industrialization, is markedly absent. When it does appear—most strikingly with the grim life-stories of the siblings Jabez and Sarah Newell—they are among the minority of students from backgrounds neither closely connected with the art world, nor comfortably middle-class or genteel. The examples of stellar social ascent and achievement on the basis of talent alone are real; but they are the exceptions rather than representative.


The relative weight of personal and Academic connection is exposed in the record of the provision of references for students. Of the forty-three referees recorded between 1809 and 1816, less than half (nineteen) were Academicians. One of those was Henry Fuseli, who as Keeper of the Academy Schools through this period must have provided references as part of his duties, and accordingly provided the second largest number of recommendations (nineteen; all but one students at the RA). The lead in providing references was taken by William Alexander, artist and keeper of prints and drawings (twenty-two; mainly but not exclusively students). Overall, officers and Trustees were most active in admitting students. Most only ever provided a reference for one, or at most a handful, and the jibe about “friends of the librarians, & their friends’ friends” contains some truth. But the same point applies to the artists, most of whom only ever recommended one student, often known personally to them already: David Wilkie recommended his assistant, John Zephaniah Bell; George Dawe provided a reference for his own son; Thomas Lawrence for his pupil William Etty; Thomas Phillips and John Flaxman, the relatives of fellow Academicians; Thomas Stothard, the son of a neighbour (Kempe). Geography, too, seems to have played a role, with referees often coming from the same area as their favoured student: Francis Horner recommended John Henning, whom he had known in their native Scotland; the Scottish George Chalmers recommended James Tannock; Arthur Champernowne put forward William Brockedon, his protégé, whom he had supported in moving from Devon to the metropolis to pursue art; James Northcote recommended two fellow West Countrymen; Benjamin West, notorious for giving special assistance to visiting American students, two such (Leslie and Morse). If the admission procedure could be interpreted as an opportunity for the Academy to assert a corporate, professionalized identity, based purely on merit, we can nonetheless detect underlying patterns of kinship, personal, social, and geographical affiliation.


Simply stated, even if study at the Museum was free and freely available, any given student would still need to access a letter of reference and the time to go to the Museum (as well as the material means to acquire the portfolio, paper, and chalks anticipated by the Trustees). The opening hours for students militated against anyone attending who had to use these daylight hours for work, a point which was made quite often with reference to the Reading Room through this period.63 The most assiduous students needed the time free to study at the British Museum, something that well-off students like Eastlake, Brockedon, Briggs, and Monro had readily available to them. Their peers at the Academy who were obliged to work during the day to make a living, or who were serving apprenticeships, would simply not be able to make the hours available at the Museum.64 The ambitious painter Thomas Christmas was free to attend the Museum, having dedicated himself to study after working as a clerk, but his brother, Charles George Christmas, who held down a job in the Audit Office, would have struggled; accounting for his studies at the Academy, he had told Farington, “He shd. continue to do the business at the Auditors' Office, Whitehall, which occupies Him from 10 oClock till 3 each day, as it will keep His mind free from anxiety abt. His means of living and leave Him with a feeling of independence.”65 Given that the students were admitted to the Townley Gallery from noon to 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and that the Trustees continued to prohibit the use of artificial lights in the Museum, there was scarcely any real possibility of Charles George Christmas attending, although he also enjoyed the comforts of a middle-class home background (their father was a Bank of England official).


With the ascent of utilitarian criticism, visitor levels were turned to anew as a measure of the institution’s fulfilment or failure to fulfil its “national” purpose. On strictly statistical terms, the Museum seemed to be successful at providing opportunities for art students. Only under the closest scrutiny, with attention to the “micro-history” of individual lives, does that illusion start to be tested. It is, though, at this “micro” level that we can apprehend the characteristic paradox of an emerging cultural modernity, one that is still with us. Yet the point, to follow Rancière, is not to see the past ascent of a present situation, but to force ourselves to feel uneasy with that sense of recognition and its tacit model of history. The evidence is that free access to culture and the (circumscribed) promotion of equality were combined with socially restrictive patterns of preferment.66 Study at the British Museum may have been free, and freely available to properly qualified students of the Academy, but you needed to be in the right place at the right time, to have the time available, and, indeed, to know or at least be able to access the right people, to get in.


This point may seem unduly sociological or even tendentious, but overlooking it involves a denial of the socially invested nature of time, specifically, of the scholastic time (given over to study or contemplation or to creation) mythically removed from the influence of social forces.67 The acts of nomination which saw certain men and women given special access to the Townley Gallery, acts so seemingly trivial in themselves involving perhaps only an exchange of words and a scribbled note, were microcosmic manifestations of social authority of the most far-reaching kind.68 When Robert Butt, the principal manager of the bronze and porcelain department at Messrs Howell & James, Regent-street, was examined by the Select Committee on Arts and Manufactures in 1835, he noted:

The process by which a knowledge of the arts of painting and sculpture is now acquired is this: a young man receives tuition from a private master; he draws from the antique at the British Museum for a certain time, and when he shows that he has sufficient talent to qualify him for a student of the Royal Academy he is admitted; but the expense of acquiring that preliminary knowledge is considerable, and the young artist must also be maintained by his relatives during the time that he is acquiring it.69

The following year, in a further parliamentary committee, this time dedicated to testing out the British Museum’s claims to public status, James Crabb, “House Decorator” of Shoe Lane, Fleet Street, was asked, “Did you ever obtain any assistance, by means of casts, from the better specimens of sculpture in the Museum or elsewhere?”, to which he replied, “I should derive assistance from them if I had the opportunity, but I have not time.”70 Considered sociologically, as the personal experience of these men seems to have obliged them to do, time was certainly of the essence.


The prevalence of students with secure middle-class backgrounds at the British Museum might, then, be taken as evidence of an early phase in the “middle-classification” of art practice, the awkward but evocative phrase used recently by Angela McRobbie in her eye-opening observations of careers in the present-day creative industries.71 Whatever emphasis may be put on equality of access to educational opportunity, however rigorously fair-minded and anonymized the tests and measures involved in admission procedures, without forms of positive support to counterbalance or actively adjust social inequalities, those same inequalities will tend to be reproduced, homologically, in the educational field. This is patently not a simple matter of social and material advantage underpinning artistic enterprise in a wholly predictable way; such would be a nonsense, in light of the many students who did not enjoy such advantages. Instead, it is the very flexibility built into the exclusionary processes of the emerging cultural field which is significant—the possibility that talented students could get access, gain reputation, achieve success, without being limited by their social origins. “Freeing” art education allowed for the expression of personal preferences or dispositions at an individual level, which at an aggregate level reproduced larger power relations. Exposing that ultimately exclusionary process, which may be marked only in small differences, in personal dispositions and behaviours, in the personal choices and decisions which are neither truly personal nor really pure as choices, is no small task. This essay, and the biographical survey accompanying it, with its details of a multitude of student lives otherwise scarcely recorded or recognized, is intended as a small contribution to that larger project, with the excess of data presented here perhaps imposing, in itself, new requirements on our understanding of the history of art education.




Regulations for the admission of students of the Royal Academy to the Townley Gallery at the British Museum (May 1808):

[7] That the students of the Royal Academy be admitted into the Gallery of Antiquities upon every Friday in the months of April, May, June, & July, & every day in the months of August and September, from the hours of twelve to four, except on Wednesdays and Saturdays the Students, not exceeding twenty at a time, to be admitted by a Ticket from the President and Council of the Royal Academy, signed by their Secretary.

[8] The better to maintain decorum among the Students, a person properly qualified shall be nominated by the Royal Academy from their own body, who shall attend during the hours of study; the name of such person to be signified in writing, from time to time, by the Secretary of the Royal Academy to the Principal Librarian of the British Museum.

[9] That the members of the Royal Academy have access to the Gallery of Antiquities at all admissible times, upon application to the Principal Librarian or the Senior under Librarian in Residence

[10] That on the Fridays in April, May June & July one of the officers of the Department of Antiquities do attend in the Gallery of Antiquities according to Rotation in discharge of his ordinary Duty.

[11] That in the months of August & September some one of the several Officers of the Museum, then in Residence, do (according to a Rotation to be agreed upon by themselves & confirmed by the Principal Librarian) attend on the Gallery upon the Days for the admission of Students.

[12] That the attendants in the Department of Antiquities be always present in the Gallery during the times when the Students are admitted.72




The register of students admitted to the Townley Gallery was originally consulted during my term as Paul Mellon Mid-Career Fellow in 2014–15. Thank you to Mark Hallett and Sarah Victoria Turner of the Mellon Centre for their continuing support and guidance, to Baillie Card and Rose Bell for their careful editorial work, Tom Scutt for crafting the digital presentation of my research, the two anonymous readers for their valuable critical input, and to Antony Griffiths, formerly of the British Museum, and Hugo Chapman, Angela Roche, and Sheila O’Connell of the British Museum, for providing access to the register and for their advice. I am especially indebted to Mark Pomeroy, archivist, and his colleagues at the Royal Academy of Arts for the access provided to materials there and for advice and suggestions. I would also like to thank Viccy Coltman, Brad Feltham, Martin Hopkinson, Sarah Monks, Sarah Moulden, Michael Phillips, Jacob Simon, Greg Sullivan, and Alison Wright.

About the author

  • Head shot of man

    Martin Myrone is an art historian and curator based in London. He held curatorial roles at Tate Britain for more than twenty years and is currently convenor of the British Art Network based at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.

    He delivered a range of exhibition and display projects at Tate Britain, including Gothic Nightmares: Fuseli, Blake and the Romantic Imagination (2006), John Martin: Apocalypse (2011–12) and William Blake (2019–20). He was founding co-convenor of the Tate Research Centre: British Romantic Art (2010–13).


  1. The original register is held in the Keeper’s Office, Department of Prints and Drawings, British Museum.

  2. Patrick Joyce, “Speaking up for the State” (2014),

  3. These points are made in light of a larger research project, which has given rise to the present study: a biographical survey of all the students of paintings, sculpture, and engraving who were active at the Royal Academy schools between its foundation in 1769 and 1830 together with a monograph, provisionally titled The Talent of Success: The Royal Academy Schools in the Age of Turner, Blake and Constable, c. 1770–1840 (forthcoming). This fuller survey indicates several important shifts over these decades, including a fundamantal shift in the proportion of students coming from family backgrounds in the arts and design-oriented trades, in comparison with those coming from professional and genteel backgrounds. It exposes, specifically, a new group whose fathers were engaged as “officers”, in the civil service or bureaucratic roles, who in turn had a disproportionate representation within the developing art establishment (as Academicians, or as officials in other cultural bodies).

  4. The term “art world”, as designating a space of co-production, stems from Howard S. Becker, Art Worlds (1984), rev. edn (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2008). As deployed here, it is closer in conception to the sociological “field” as detailed by Pierre Bourdieu across a succession of influential works. Notable among these, for present purposes because of its methodological statement about the homological analysis of the world (field) of art in relation to the field of power, is The Rules of Art, trans. Susan Emanuel (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996), esp. 214–15.

  5. See, notably, the chapter on “Workers in Art” in Samuel Smiles’s Self-Help, first published 1859 with numerous further editions. On the self-motivated artist as the model for all forms of work, see Angela McRobbie, Be Creative: Making a Living in the New Culture Industries (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016), esp. 70–76.

  6. Holger Hoock, The King’s Artists: The Royal Academy of Arts and the Politics of British Culture, 1760–1840 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003) and Hoock, “The British State and the Anglo-French Wars Over Antiquities, 1798–1858”, Historical Journal 50, no. 1 (2007): 49–72.

  7. Patrick Joyce, The Rule of Freedom: Liberalism and the Modern City (London: Verso, 2003) and Joyce, The State of Freedom: A Social History of the British State Since 1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013); also his “What is the Social in Social History?”, Past and Present 206, no. 1 (2010): 213–48.

  8. On this Foucauldian framing of art education and creative production within liberalism, see McRobbie, Be Creative, 71–76 and passim.

  9. Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (1944; Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2002); Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–1979, ed. Michel Sennelert, trans. Graham Burchell (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008); Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Gregory Elliott (London and New York: Verso, 2007); Pierre Bourdieu, On the State: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1989–1992, ed. Patrick Champagne and others, trans. David Fernbach (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2014).

  10. See Edward Higgs, Identifying the English: A History of Personal Identification 1500 to the Present (London: Bloomsbury, 2011), 97–119. Higgs’s account is, essentially, positive about the liberties and rights secured by this rising documentation. The position taken here is more determinedly Foucauldian. For the foundational role of statistics in “liberalisation”, and the hidden affinities between the liberal and the totalitarian, see Michael Foucault, “Society Must Be Defended”: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975–76, ed. Mauro Bertani and Alessandro Fontana, trans. David Macey (London: Penguin, 2004).

  11. Foucault, Birth of Biopolitics, 69.

  12. A biographical dictionary of Royal Academy students from 1769–1830. See note 3, above.

  13. Jacques Rancière, The Method of Equality: Interviews with Laurent Jeanpierre and Dork Zabunyan, trans. Julie Rose (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016), 108.

  14. Neil Chambers, Joseph Banks and the British Museum: The World of Collecting, 1770–1830 (London: Routledge, 2007), 107.

  15. The register is mentioned in the notice of Seymour Kirkup in G. E. Bentley, Blake Records, 2nd edn (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 2004), 289n. Kirkup was an unusually assiduous student at the Museum, admitted in 1809 and renewing his ticket through to 1812. The reference in Bentley appears to be the only published reference to the register. The admission of the Paytherus sisters to draw at the Museum is noted by James Hamilton in his London Lights: The Minds that Moved the City that Shook the World, 1805–51 (London: John Murray, 2007), 72, although with reference to the early Reading Room register (marked “1795”) in the British Museum Central Archive, rather than the volume in Prints and Drawings.

  16. See J. T. Smith, Nollekens and his Times, 2 vols., 2nd edn (London: Henry Colburn, 1829), 1: 242.

  17. Viccy Coltman, Classical Sculpture and the Culture of Collecting in Britain since 1760 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 242–44.

  18. See B. F. Cook, The Townley Marbles (London: British Museum Press, 1985) and Ian Jenkins, Archaeologists and Aesthetes in the Sculpture Galleries of the British Museum, 18001939 (London: British Museum Press, 1992).

  19. Chambers, Joseph Banks, 107.

  20. Derek Cash, “Access to Museum Culture: The British Museum from 1753 to 1836”, British Museum Occasional Papers 133 (2002), 68.

  21. The British Museum, Central Archive, C/1/5/1029–30.

  22. Library of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, CM/4/50–52.

  23. Library of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, CM/4/59.

  24. The British Museum, Central Archive, C/1/5/1034.

  25. The British Museum, Central Archive, C/1/5/1043–144. Cf. “Chapter III: Concerning the Admission into the British Museum”, in Acts and Votes of Parliament, Statutes and Rules, and Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum (London, 1808), 15–16.

  26. Joseph Farington, The Diary of Joseph Farington, ed. Kenneth Garlick, Angus Macintyre, and others, 17 vols. (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1978–98), 9: 3284.

  27. Library of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, GM/2/366, 370.

  28. Library of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, GM/2/371.

  29. Library of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, GM/2/372–73.

  30. Diary of Joseph Farington, 9: 3313.

  31. Diary of Joseph Farington, 9: 3317.

  32. Diary of Joseph Farington, 9: 3284.

  33. The British Museum, Central Archive, C/3/9/2426.

  34. The British Museum, Central Archive, C/3/9/2428.

  35. The British Museum, Central Archive, C/1/5/1069.

  36. The British Museum, Central Archive, C/1/5/1070.

  37. The arrangement of the galleries was first detailed in a written description provided by Westmacott for Prince Hoare’s Academic Annals (London, 1809) and in Taylor Combe’s A Description of the Ancient Marbles in the British Museum, 3 vols. (London, 1812–17). See Cook, Townley Marbles, 59–61.

  38. Karl Friedrich Schinkel, “The English Journey”: Journal of a Visit to France and Britain in 1826, ed. David Bindman and Gottfried Riemann (New Haven, CT, and London, 1993), 74.

  39. The record of admissions to view prints and drawings must have arisen from the new regulations issued by the Trustees in November 1814; see, Antony Griffiths, “The Department of Prints and Drawings during the First Century of the British Museum”, The Burlington Magazine 136, 1097 (1994): 536.

  40. In March 1817 the student artist William Bewick wrote to his brother: “I last Monday set my name down as a student in the British Museum.” See Thomas Landseer, ed., Life and Letters of William Bewick (Artist), 2 vols. (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1871), 1: 37.

  41. Edward Nygren, “James Ward, RA (1769–1859): Papers and Patrons”, Walpole Society 75 (2013): 16.

  42. Jack Tupper, “Extracts from the Diary of an Artist. No.V”, The Crayon, 12 December 1855, 368.

  43. An album of drawings of the Townley Marbles in the British Museum (2010,5006.1877.1–40) appears to have been collected by Townley himself, so dates to before the installation of the marbles at the Museum. The drawings serve as records of the objects rather than student exercises. The drawings by John Samuel Agar in the Getty Research Institute are evidently preparatory for the prints published in Specimens of Antient Sculpture.

  44. BL Add MS 37,163 f.106. This and other figures in the Townley collection could also be found as casts in the Royal Academy’s plaster schools, so even if Wood’s drawing, for example, could be traced, it could not definitively be said to be made in the Townley Gallery.

  45. See Ann Chumbley and Ian Warrell, Turner and the Human Figure: Studies of Contemporary Life, exh. cat. (London: Tate Gallery, 1989), 12–13.

  46. Eric Shanes, Young Mr Turner: The First Forty Years, 1775–1815 (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 2016), 33–34.

  47. Hansard (House of Commons), 16 February 1821, c.724 (online at See Cash, “Access to Museum Culture”, 197–225 for a full account of public discussions around this date.

  48. Quoted in Cash, “Access to Museum Culture”, 208.

  49. British Museum: Returns to two Orders of the Honourable House of Commons, dated 16th February 1821, House of Commons, 23 February 1821, 2.

  50. Cash “Access to Museum Culture”, 71.

  51. Quoted in The Literary Chronicle, 17 March 1821, 168.

  52. Edward Edwards, Lives of the Founders of the British Museum (London: Trübner and Co., 1870), 520.

  53. See Martin Myrone, “Something too Academical: The Problem with Etty”, in William Etty: Art and Controversy, ed. Sarah Burnage, Mark Hallett, and Laura Turner (London: Philip Wilson, 2011), 47–59.

  54. The barest and most conjectural biographies include those for William Carr of New Broad Street; W. W. Torrington; Edward Thomson; Richard Moses; and Mr Lewer. Information is most notably lacking for the trio of Miss Cowper, Miss Moula, and Mr Turner of Gower Street; William Hamilton of Stafford Place; William Irving of Montague Street; Thomas Williams of Hatton Garden; Daniel Jones; M. Hatley of Albermarle Street; Miss Edgar; Miss Carmichael of Granville Street; Mr Atwood; Mr Higgins of Norfolk Street; George Pisey of Castle Street; Charles White of George Street; Robert Walter Page of Wigmore Street; Henry A. Matthew; Thomas Welsh; and John Hall.

  55. Students were entered as “probationers” for a period of three months (which might be extended), and once registered could attend the Schools for a period of ten years.

  56. Ralph Irvine; Arthur Champernowne; the Chevalier de Barde; John Disney; John Campbell; Edward Utterson; John Lambert; Robert Batty; Alexander Huey; Richard Thomson; Charles Toplis; John Frederick Williams; Edward Burrows; William Carr; W. W. Torrington.

  57. Jane Landseer; Janet Ross; Georgiana Ross; the two Misses Paytherus; H. Edgar; Maria Singleton; Elizabeth Appleton; Louisa Champernowne; Miss Carmichael; Elizabeth Batty; Frances Edwards; Eliza Kempe; Ann Damer; Miss Cowper; Miss Moula; Miss Trotter; Miss Adams; Sarah Newell; Emma Kendrick; Jane Gurney.

  58. Gentleman’s Magazine (1820) and A Trip to Paris in August and September (1815), quoted by William T. Whitley in his Art in England, 1800–1820 (London: Medici Society, 1928), 263, as evidence that “It was still thought improper for women to study from such figures” as the Apollo Belvedere.

  59. Cash, “Access to Museum Culture”, 113.

  60. As the American Samuel F. B. Morse (a student at the Royal Academy and the British Museum) noted in 1811: “I was surprised on entering the gallery of paintings at the British Institution, at seeing eight or ten ladies as well as gentlemen, with their easels and palettes and oil colours, employed in copying some of the pictures. You can see from this circumstance in what estimation the art is held here, since ladies of distinction, without hesitation or reserve, are willing to draw in public.” See Edward Lind Morse, ed., Samuel F. B. Morse: His Letters and Journals, 2 vols. (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1914), 1: 45.

  61. Lists of students admitted to copy at the British Institution appear in the Directors’ minutes, NAL RC V 12–14, and in contemporary press reports. Individuals admitted to copy at Dulwich Picture Gallery were routinely listed in the “Bourgeois Book of Regulations” from 1820; photocopies and notes at Dulwich Picture Gallery, C1 and H3.

  62. This is expecially clearly expressed in James Ward’s diary notes on his visits in 1817, meeting there the artists William Skelton, Joseph Clover, Henry Fuseli, and William Long, but also the gentlemen collectors and scholars William Lock, Edward Utterson, and Francis Douce (Nygren, “James Ward”).

  63. See Cash, “Access to Museum Culture”, 217 and passim.

  64. Although the timing of the Academy’s evening classes might seem to be more accommodating, even this may have been challenging. The master of Richard Westall, later a watercolour painter, “permitted him to draw at the Royal Academy, in the evenings; but for that indulgence he worked a corresponding number of hours in the morning”. Gentleman's Magazine, February 1837, 213.

  65. Diary of Joseph Farington, 4: 4783.

  66. On educational tests as linking “macro” and “micro”, “both sectoral mechanisms or unique situations and societal arrangements”, see Boltanski and Chiapello, New Spirit of Capitalism, 32.

  67. See Pierre Bourdieu, Pascalian Meditations, trans. Richard Nice (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000).

  68. “Acts of nomination, from the most trivial acts of bureaucracy, like the issuing of an identity card, or a sickness or disablement certification, to the most solemn, which consecrate nobilities, lead, in a kind of infinite regress, to the realization of God on earth, the State, which guarantees, in the last resort, the infinite series of acts of authority certifying by delegation the validity of the certificates of legitimate existence”, Bourdieu, Pascalian Meditations, 245. The potentially trivial nature of the acts of nomination involved in gaining access to the British Museum is highlighted in Joseph Planta’s own account of providing recommendations (for the Reading Room) often only on the basis of casual conversations. See Cash, “Access to Museum Culture”, 207.

  69. Report of the Select Committee on Arts and Manufactures, House of Commons, 4 September 1835, 40.

  70. Report of the Select Committee on the British Museum, quoted in Edward Edwards, Remarks on the “Minutes of Evidence” Taken before the Select Committee on the British Museum, 2nd edn (London [1839]), 14.

  71. McRobbie, Be Creative.

  72. The British Museum, Central Archive, C/1/5/1043–144.



Acts and Votes of Parliament, Statutes and Rules, and Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum. London, 1808.

Becker, Howard S. Art Worlds (1984). Rev. edn. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2008.

Bentley, G. E. Blake Records. 2nd edn. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004.

Boltanski, Luc, and Eve Chiapello. The New Spirit of Capitalism. Trans. Gregory Elliott. London and New York: Verso, 2007.

Bourdieu, Pierre. On the State: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1989–1992. Ed. Patrick Champagne and others. Trans. David Fernbach. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2014.

– – –. Pascalian Meditations. Trans. Richard Nice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000.

– – –. The Rules of Art. Trans. Susan Emanuel. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996.

Cash, Derek. “Access to Museum Culture: The British Museum from 1753 to 1836.” British Museum Occasional Papers 133 (2002)

Chambers, Neil. Joseph Banks and the British Museum: The World of Collecting, 1770–1830. London: Routledge, 2007.

Chumbley, Ann, and Ian Warrell. Turner and the Human Figure: Studies of Contemporary Life. London: Tate Gallery, 1989.

Coltman, Viccy. Classical Sculpture and the Culture of Collecting in Britain since 1760. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Combe, Taylor. A Description of the Ancient Marbles in the British Museum, 3 vols. London, 1812–17.

Cook, B. F. The Townley Marbles. London: British Museum Press, 1985.

Edwards, Edward. Lives of the Founders of the British Museum. London: Trübner and Co., 1870.

– – –. Remarks on the “Minutes of Evidence” Taken before the Select Committee on the British Museum. 2nd edn. London [1839].

Farington, Joseph. The Diary of Joseph Farington. Ed. Kenneth Garlick, Angus Macintyre and others. 17 vols. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1978–98.

Foucault, Michel. The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–1979. Ed. Michel Sennelert. Trans. Graham Burchell. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

– – –. “Society Must Be Defended”: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975–76. Ed. Mauro Bertani and Alessandro Fontana. Trans. David Macey. London: Penguin, 2004.

Griffiths, Antony. “The Department of Prints and Drawings during the First Century of the British Museum.” The Burlington Magazine 136 (1994): 531–44.

Hamilton, James. London Lights: The Minds that Moved the City that Shook the World, 1805–51. London: John Murray, 2007.

Higgs, Edward. Identifying the English: A History of Personal Identification 1500 to the Present. London: Bloomsbury, 2011.

Hoock, Holger. “The British State and the Anglo-French Wars Over Antiquities, 1798–1858.” Historical Journal 50, no. 1 (2007): 49–72.

– – –. The King’s Artists: The Royal Academy of Arts and the Politics of British Culture, 1760–1840. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Jenkins, Ian. Archaeologists and Aesthetes in the Sculpture Galleries of the British Museum, 1800–1939. London: British Museum Press, 1992.

Joyce, Patrick. The Rule of Freedom: Liberalism and the Modern City. London: Verso, 2003.

– – –. “Speaking up for the State” (2014).

– – –. The State of Freedom: A Social History of the British State Since 1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

– – –. “What is the Social in Social History?” Past and Present 206, no. 1 (2010): 213–48.

Landseer, Thomas, ed. Life and Letters of William Bewick (Artist). 2 vols. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1871.

McRobbie, Angela. Be Creative: Making a Living in the New Culture Industries. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016.

Morse, Edward Lind, ed. Samuel F. B. Morse: His Letters and Journals. 2 vols. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1914

Myrone, Martin. “Something too Academical: The Problem with Etty.” In William Etty: Art and Controversy, ed. Sarah Burnage, Mark Hallett, and Laura Turner. London: Philip Wilson, 2011, 47–59.

Nygren, Edward. “James Ward, RA (1769–1859): Papers and Patrons.” Walpole Society 75 (2013).

Polanyi, Karl. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (1944). Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2002.

Rancière, Jacques. The Method of Equality: Interviews with Laurent Jeanpierre and Dork Zabunyan. Trans. Julie Rose. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2016.

Schinkel, Karl Friedrich. “English Journey”: Journal of a Visit to France and Britain in 1826. Ed. David Bindman and Gottfried Riemann. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1993.

Shanes, Eric. Young Mr Turner: The First Forty Years, 1775–1815. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 2016.

Smiles, Samuel. Self-Help: With Illustrations of Character and Conduct. London: John Murray, 1859.

Smith, J. T. Nollekens and his Times, 2 vols. 2nd edn, London: Henry Colburn, 1829.

Tupper, Jack. “Extracts from the Diary of an Artist. No.V.” The Crayon, 12 December 1855.

Whitley, William T. Art in England, 1800–1820. London: Medici Society, 1928.


Martin Myrone
03 April 2017
Review status
Peer Reviewed (Double Blind)
CC BY-NC International 4.0
PDF format
Article DOI
Cite as
Martin Myrone, "Drawing after the Antique at the British Museum, 1809–1817:
“Free” Art Education and the Advent of the Liberal State", British Art Studies, Issue 5,